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Hawks vs. Knicks NBA Playoffs Game 2: Do We Zag?

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Hawks vs. Knicks NBA Playoffs Game 2: Do We Zag?
New York Knicks' Julius Randle against the Atlanta Hawks on May 23, 2021 in New York City. Seth Wenig - Pool/Getty Images/AFP

The Atlanta Hawks were the right NBA pick for their first-round opener versus the New York Knicks. What about Wednesday’s Game 2?

Atlanta Hawks vs. New York Knicks

Wednesday, May 26, 2021 – 7:30 PM ET at Madison Square Garden

You’d expect a first-round game between the fourth and fifth seeds to be a close one. Sunday’s opener between the No. 4 New York Knicks and No. 5 Atlanta Hawks was exactly that; the Hawks prevailed 107-105, cashing in as 1.5-point favorites on the NBA odds board after a last-second bucket by Trae Young. No reason to think that Game 2 can’t go either way this Wednesday, but this time, the Knicks are favored by two points at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review) down from –2.5 at the open.

Back in the day, this is when we’d dust off the old Zigzag Theory and put the Knicks in our NBA picks. The reasoning is simple: Bettors over-react to the results of Game 1, failing to consider the adjustments the losing team will make for Game 2. Well, as someone sporty once said, that dog won’t hunt. The Zigzag Theory lost its groove sometime in the mid-10s, and even before then, it worked best when dealing with 1-8 or 2-7 matchups, not 4 vs. 5. And we have Atlanta available at a better price now than for the opener. Maybe we should just stick with what we’ve got.

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MSG Adds Flavor

Getting the Hawks at +2.5 would have been better, of course. FiveThirtyEight project New York to win Game 2 by the slimmest of margins at 0.5 points. That would have left the requisite old-school two points between the projections and the actual NBA lines for us to insert a healthy wager. Jeff Sagarin at The USA Today hasn’t released his projections yet as we go to press, but he does have Atlanta and New York rated almost exactly the same on paper, with home-court advantage worth about one point across the league this year, so call it Knicks –1 at his end.

Granted, home court might be worth even more in this contest. Just over 15,000 fans were allowed into the Garden on Sunday, as the Empire State opens up to near-full capacity in what we hope will be the late stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Fans drive home-court advantage, so if they’re close to selling out MSG, the Knicks should get close to the generic 2.25 points that home court has been worth in recent years. How much of that has been baked into FiveThirtyEight’s projections? Beats me. Stupid pandemic.

Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks. Casey Sykes/Getty Images/AFP

Whatever the case, we can only recommend making a small bet on the Hawks in this one. As we said, this is anyone’s game to win, and anyone’s series as well. Both teams have stepped up their level of play as the season has worn on, with New York adapting to head coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive mindset, and Atlanta doing the same for their interim coach, Nate McMillan. The total for Wednesday’s game has already dipped from 214 to 212.5 at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review), so let’s avoid that temptation, ride the Hawks for now, and may the sphere be with you.

NBA Pick: Hawks +2 (-108) at BetOnline

Hawks +2(-108)
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*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.